Perhaps both words can describe the feelings surrounding attending a high school reunion—especially when it’s the first one you’ve been to and you graduated thirty-some years ago.
Will bygones be bygones? Or will it be like too many TV shows or movies where old battles rear up? Will you have any John Cusack – Grosse Pointe Blank kind of moments? Will you remember everyone so that they feel good? Will people remember you so you don’t feel bad? Will that one eternally obnoxious person be there to bring up the one specific moment that you have tried to forget?
You walk in, thankful for seeing faces you’ve kept in touch with over the years, glad there’s no spinning glitter ball hanging from the ceiling, and joyful to see that one friend from grade school you haven’t seen in way too long.
What is it about an upcoming reunion—high school, college, whatever— that can fill some of us with such dread? Or like my Dad who attended every reunion over the years—with such excitement to catch up?
High school is hard for most kids. We’re a little bit psychotic during our teen years with the various internal battles going on for this or that to dominate. We’re trying out personalities, learning likes and dislikes, trying to be individuals when so much of society is telling us to be this or that. We want to be grown up; we don’t want to lose freedom. We want jobs; we want to play. We want a boy/girl friend; but we don’t want tied down. We think this is all there is; we know there’s so much more. What do we want to do after graduation? Where will the passions lead us?
And what, after decades, will it be like to go back?
If you’re lucky, the anxiety you might have built up about attending a reunion evaporates when you get there—reality so often being less threatening than what we can imagine.
You visit with fellows who were charming and nice then and discover they’re the same now. You exchange hugs with girlfriends who were sweet and soft-spoken back in the day and see that they haven’t changed. You catch up on careers, kids, travels, cities lived in, happiness achieved. And it doesn’t matter anymore—the old stuff dissipates the more you talk, you start trading stories and they’re the funny ones, not the hard ones. The classmate who sat behind you for seven years is still able to make you laugh out loud. The friend you once comforted in the bathroom after a bad breakup is now a fiercely independent businesswoman. And maybe that one friend you were really looking forward to catching up with passed away and you have some somber moments.
Whatever happens when we attempt to go back, to renew connections for an evening or for the years going forward, it’s simply more life coming on. I say: bring it. Dive into that reunion with the same gusto you take into every other portion of your adult life. There may be one person you avoid and another you want to catch up with but the room ebbs and flows keep you from doing it. It’s worth it because it’s a milestone. It’s something on the life schedule that can either take place with you or without you. I say go for it and see how you feel on the other side.
Me? After thirty-eight years, it was sure good to see so many faces and sure sad to know we’ve lost fourteen classmates over the years. It was good to have mini-conversations or talk for twenty minutes. It was good to discover that the monster-in-my-closet-mind of what it could have been was way off base when confronted with reality. It was delightful.
Have you gone to reunions? What kind and how were they?